Written by John Lin
Guitar, ukulele and songwriting teacher, Middle C Music School
The new year is the time when we reflect on the previous year and set intentions for the following year.
This New Year, what if we could help our children increase their confidence, hone alertness and build resilience, all while learning a new skill, having fun and discovering the joys of creativity?
As a guitar and songwriting teacher at Middle C Music in Washington, DC for the past eight years, I’ve seen for myself how music is a powerful tool for developing these evasive skills in children (and adults too!). Music relaxes us, allows us to express ourselves freely, and teaches us the pride of perseverance in solving problems and overcoming challenges. Keep in mind that these benefits – and all the joys of music and learning – are also available to adults! It is never too early or too late to improve your quality of life through music education.
As we head into the new year, I urge parents to learn more about the benefits of music education and to think about what your child can gain this year as a result:
Mindfulness and music can be mutual. Listening to music and finding pitch helps children identify specific sounds accurately – rather than being distracted by background noise, which helps the child practice alertness and attention. A study of parents with children enrolled in music lessons found that 85% of parents perceive their children as having a greater ability to keep working until completion of a task one year later in music lessons, even when they perceive the task as challenging.
Improve confidence and social skills
We all want our children to be self-confident, and studies prove time and time again that musical education can help a child build confidence and their unique identity. Music is a naturally collaborative activity, and an effective teacher can help develop a student’s own interests and musical preferences. When a student is actively involved in the direction of their learning, the result is confidence and motivation.
Working with a supportive teacher, or being part of a small band, orchestra, or rock band, can help a child develop their social skills. Although not required, performing in front of peers and at parties provides a great opportunity to practice public speaking, presentation and communication skills. Many schools, including ours, offer opportunities to perform in small and larger group settings, allowing students to build their confidence by performing on stage or in front of a larger audience.
Over and over in my songwriting camps for teens, I’ve seen students step into a fun and creative space, allowing them to be more present and connect with themselves and others in a supportive environment. Creating and interpreting music is a process full of trial and error. Good guidance and support help students confront critical inner voices and reframe errors into opportunities.
Studying music can be challenging, but maintaining a safe and nurturing space for a student to make mistakes is beneficial in many ways. When the time comes for a student to take that step onto the stage, hopefully, we’ve provided skills to overcome the fear of what they might consider a failure. Sometimes this fear of failure can be resolved as a result of one small achievement in the lesson; Sometimes it can take weeks, months, or years.
Learning a new skill requires persistence, discipline, and motivation to succeed. Participating in an activity that interests them, such as learning a new tool, is a powerful way to help children develop self-motivation and discipline over time. This is a great exercise for the challenges your children will face later in life. As teachers, we ask our students to be responsible for their journey. With care and advice, we ask students to complete assignments and tasks that will develop their skills. Sometimes the tasks are joyful. Sometimes they need discipline and more attention to make them feel like they are working, but learning how to turn the feeling of work into fun, excitement, validation and joy is part of the learning.
If you have children in your life who may need a deeper connection to mindfulness, could benefit from improved self-esteem or still need to find their social place, music programs offer many opportunities to hone these other important life skills while having fun. I urge parents to take that first step, ask questions and find the right teacher or school for your child. It will be a gift for life.